Published on

ABC Analysis - Supply Chain In 3 Minutes

ABC Analysis - Supply Chain In 3 Minutes

ABC analysis is a straightforward method of categorizing inventory based on its perceived importance. This method finds its origins in the Pareto principle, which states that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. In the world of supply chain and inventory management, ABC analysis helps prioritize resources based on the importance of products.

The Pareto principle, first observed by Vilfredo Pareto in the 19th century, highlighted that around 80% of England's total wealth was controlled by only 20% of its population. This principle was later applied to various aspects beyond economics, leading to the birth of the 80/20 rule.

An application of this rule can be seen in supermarkets, where approximately 80% of overall consumption is derived from just 20% of the items in the store. This means that only a small fraction of a store's offering brings in the majority of its revenue. This division of resources based on product importance forms the basis of ABC analysis.

Categories in ABC Analysis

When using ABC analysis, store managers categorize items into different groups based on their consumption value. These groups reflect the level of importance or performance of each item. The categories typically consist of:

  1. A Items: These top performers generate the highest annual consumption value and contribute significantly to revenue.
  2. B Items: These items have a medium consumption value and require moderate attention.
  3. C Items: These slow-moving items, with the lowest consumption value, demand minimal attention.

It is important to note that while this overview mentions three categories, ABC analysis can be more granular and involve multiple levels of categorization.

Implications and Strategies

The categorization of items in ABC analysis helps guide inventory management strategies. A items, being the most important, require tight inventory control, accurate sales forecasts, and prioritized storage. Store managers frequently monitor and reorder these items to avoid stockouts.

In contrast, C items with low demand and higher risk of excessive inventory costs may have an inventory policy that maintains as little as one unit in stock. Reordering occurs only when a purchase has been made in-store. While stockouts may occur, the acceptable level of risk justifies this approach for C items. Often, the question for C items is not how many units are in-store, but whether they should be kept in-store at all.

Limitations of ABC Analysis

Despite its practicality, ABC analysis has some limitations. One of the main challenges lies in its suitability for computer-based systems. The process, developed over multiple decades, works well for humans to prioritize work but may not be as effective for computers. Modern computing power allows for a more individualized assessment of each product's characteristics.

To summarize, ABC analysis provides a simple yet effective way to categorize inventory based on its importance. This method guides inventory management strategies, ensuring that resources are optimized based on the value and performance of each item.


ABC analysis, inventory management, Pareto principle, supply chain, item categorization, A items, B items, C items, inventory control, sales forecasts, stockouts, low demand, excessive inventory costs.


Q1: What is ABC analysis? A1: ABC analysis is a method that categorizes inventory based on its perceived importance. It is derived from the Pareto principle, where roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes.

Q2: How does ABC analysis help in supply chain management? A2: ABC analysis helps prioritize resources based on the importance of products. It enables better inventory control, accurate sales forecasts, and optimized storage for high-performing items, while allowing minimal attention for low-demand items.

Q3: How are items categorized in ABC analysis? A3: Items are categorized into A, B, and C groups based on their consumption value. A items have the highest annual consumption value, B items have a medium value, and C items have the lowest value.

Q4: What are the limitations of ABC analysis? A4: While ABC analysis is practical for human decision-making, it may not be as useful for computer-based systems. Additionally, it may not capture the full complexity of individual product characteristics.

Q5: How often should reordering occur for A items? A5: A items, which are high-performing and important, require frequent reordering to avoid stockouts. This can be on a weekly or even daily basis to ensure an uninterrupted supply.